Marvel Heroes is from the Streets!

Man, I sure love Marvel Heroes. I’ve picked up both of the Advance Packs, which are moderately high buy-in (though roughly a unit and a car in, say, Warhammer) packages that pre-purchase all the upcoming heroes for the game’s next year of development. The game’s had a bit more than a year of development. I’ve also invested occasionally in costumes, boosts, “team-up” heroes (essentially uncontrolled sidekick characters/purchased buffs, depending on how you equip and employ them), and so, so much storage. It’s safe to say that I’m invested, and happily so!

However, I’ve had absolutely no luck fostering an even remotely similar investment on the behalf of my wife. I’d encouraged her to play for ages, given how much she’s enjoyed previous ARPGs from Diablo 3 to the Dungeons and Dragons game for the original Xbox (seriously, we beat that!). She’s equally willing to rock a variety of full-on MMORPG; we’re back in Rift, starting over with new characters. We recently jumped back into our Secret World characters, getting them to (and in my case through) the main storyline endgame. Guild Wars II also saw us maxing out characters—in the Burning Earth guild!—and building a handful of other race/class experiments. Hell, that game was a go-to lazy Sunday diversion for about a year; we’d log into each others’ accounts and build, in secret, characters to play together. Did that maybe three times and we managed to pick the same race each time!

In addition to the complex systems we’ve enjoyed, that return again and again behavior is part of why I thought Marvel Heroes would be a great fit. It’s not a game I play seven days a week, any more than I drop multiple hours into the Avenger’s Alliance Facebook game; I log into both of them roughly daily, because breadcrumbs, but it’s often enough to do that while I’m reading a website or the like then pop right back out. When a new character—pretty well all of whom I have immediate access to thanks to the aforementioned Advance Pack purchases—pops into the game, I usually hop on and play the previous character, after reading the new character’s skill trees. This is because I’m chronically iconoclastic, and don’t want to be the 47th of 48 Darkhawks running around the same map.

Just kidding! Darkhawk’s not in the game yet, but the second he is I’m right there. Shaggy 90’s haircut and all the angst.

After Guardians of the Galaxy hit, and she loved it, I made another push. I actually convinced her to download the game and hop in, but it was not a big seller. To be fair, part of this is because, at the first-character selection screen, she just…clicked. I can’t wrap my head around that, but it’s one of our myriad differences. I’m saying she didn’t even scroll through the options, or ask questions. She literally clicked the first character to pop up and was in. On her linked Steam account. So we couldn’t undo it.

That character was Johnny Storm, though, so really this should have been fine. In her most memorable RPG experiences on the tabletop, my wife’s primary characteristic has been and remains that if a thing can burn, she’s going to burn it. She’s currently playing a Fiendish Warlock in our weekly 5th Edition DnD game at our FLGS, and her spells either melt a dude or force them into obedience. This is a running theme, and arguably means she could have jumped from Johnny into Emma. Instead, after she punched her way through the tutorial I showed her how to buy Rocket Raccoon, my ace in the hole because of the aforementioned movie. This was all right after the film hit, so the game was running a major promotion and had other Guardian content available…plus Rocket can innately summon a permanent Groot companion.

Nothin’.

Just…nothin’. We managed maybe 5 levels before she punched out, and her primary complaint was that it was everyone doing the same thing. This was completely unexpected to me, because it’s not as though story traditionally matters to her, though. Many is the time, in a vast swathe of games (I suppose they’re all RPGs of some stripe, but what isn’t anymore?) that she proffers the deadly question “So…what’s our plan?” This is a deadly question in the same way that other lads and ladies might live in dread of their significant person asking “Does this make me look fat?” or “Wait, you made plans already?” If I’m asked this question, it’s really just a signal—a signal that things have gone sufficiently off-rail or off-engagement such that I’m about to lose my most favorite co-op partner. I’d looked to Marvel Heroes as a perfect repository of quick-clicking, constantly-rewarding, bright and flashy fun. After Diablo 3, I thought she’d appreciate the eminently destructible environments, and the surge of power that comes when you get a character whose Strength score passes that magical breakpoint where things you could previously just break are suddenly hefted above your head. Or maybe she’d have settled on a character who skips that progression and just levitates cars, because that happens to!

So apparently the appeal of Marvel Heroes requires more investment in comics themselves. Which I can accept, even though that both is and thoroughly is not what keeps me engaged. I originally picked up a particular character pack—I got the X-Force pack, because it included ranged DPS (Cable), melee tank (Colossus), melee survivable DPS (Wolvie!), and Deadpool (That’s his name!). I figured that kit would set me up for anything I could want to do…and, of course, my Cable and Deadpool are still around level 15, and it wasn’t until the retread of Wolverine that I got into playing him. I ran Colossus for a while due solely to his survivability (and because there were so many Logans running around) but I quickly switched into other characters. Buying the pack let me in on the early-access beta business, so I’ve been with the game through several F2P schemes, including a time when character unlocks were regularly dropped by enemies. The game now runs on a currency system, with roughly 1 currency dropping every 8 minutes, constant buffs and server events nonwithstanding—a character unlock costs between 2- and 600 of this currency, or roughly $10 of the earthbuck currency. The exact value of the latter largely comes down to how much you’ve spent, of course, but Marvel Heroes isn’t huge into significant cash discounts for currency bundles. By this point, I’ve unlocked heroes through drops, bought them with cash, and picked them up with the in-game currency. Thanks to the Advance Packs I mostly use my in-game stuff to unlock the Team-Ups (which aren’t counted in the packs), though I did cash in to pick up Nova because he was a weird thing that skirted normal availability (it was for early purchasers pre-launch) but was tied up in legal business until a month or so ago. I’ve even gone moderately deep–$20 or so—on character packs for characters I’d had no previous interest in, because some new (and often expensive) costume dropped.

Like, I have Beta Ray Bill. I have him as both a character costume for Thor and a team-up. If you equip the costume—which is an “enhanced” costume, so the V/O and so forth changes, even though the powers and underpinning are the same—and summon the team-up, you get Beta Ray main running around with sidekick Thor. This is awesome. It touches directly on why I’m so hooked on Marvel Heroes, too. I don’t play the game because I simply can’t wait to run around as Captain America, even if Winter Soldier (the movie, not the character coming sometime in 2015) dramatically increased my appreciation for the dude. I don’t need to play the Hulk (even if World War Hulk gave me deeeep appreciation for the dude, and his gameplay is satisfying).

I’m here to play Luke Cage, who has a permanent-summon Iron Fist! Or Jessica Jones! Or Misty Knight! Or Colleen Wing! Or all of them for a limited time! Cage also gets increased cash and when he uses his AoE, he punches the word Cage into the earth. It glows with fiery fury.

I’m here because Moon Knight has a passive power that grants him distinct benefits for each of his three personalities; it preceded the more recent comic run where Khonshu has four aspects, which is the kind of thing I know about!. He’s so willing to disfigure his opponents—that’s so MK!—that he regularly causes foes to run away after a particularly nasty hit (read: critical+).

I love weird heroes, and street-level heroes, and specifically weird street-level heroes. I appreciate the work the developers put into joining characters to their established personas, and the innovation that requires. Juggernaut doesn’t have a mana bar! He has a momentum bar, which fills as you attack enemies and also as you move, and your attacks are enhanced in damage and speed based on where you are on the bar. Stephen Strange yells about Agamotto and has a variety of incantations which weave together to greater effect. Psylocke is now a character I can find interesting and cool, rather than just someone whose costume makes me shake my head—I mean, I still do that too. They built a Rogue who has almost no powers of her own, and then gave her multiple tiers of the same two powers: Steal from Allies, and Steal from Foes. That means if your Rogue hasn’t run into Magneto yet, she’ll be completely distinct from mine, who did and stole his magnetism so I have an AoE pull and root.

That’s all awesome. I feel like that can sell the game for folks, just like the general ARPG gameplay should sell lots of people—it’s very polished, well-established, and rife with fun game events as well as currencies to collect and cash in for special business.

Me, though? I love the game because Iron Fist  is coming in 2015, and how in the hell is that possible? I joked about Darkhawk, but Portal’s helmet is already an in-game item, and I fully expect that I’ll be grapnel-clawing dudes before some Darkforce blast wipes them out. Then I’ll get to play Cloak and suddenly he’ll have dialogue where Darkhawk goes “Oh word? That’s what Darkforce is? I’m super sorry.”

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